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Old 20-04-2002, 02:20 PM
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Downstream and alternative crops

THE current deregulation of the copra industry following its imminent collapse in 2000 and 2001 has at least given some hope to producers in the province, but particularly the Kokopo district where most of the copra comes from.
Kokopo MP Sir Rabbie Namaliu is encouraging downstream processing, and simultaneously the introduction of other crops such as vanilla and cardamon to spice up the sector.

Agriculture officers are addressing the small-holder management and maintenance practices in the view of increasing yields.
The crops have been taken over by Cocoa and Coconut Extension Agency (CCEA) who are coordinating through a small holder Agriculture Credit Scheme.

Copra is the next leading established cash crop in the district, especially Bitapaka local level government.

Due to the increase of price in 1998, copra production increased a lot with new plantings. However this dropped in the last two years following the drop in international pricing.

The total hectares occupied by coconut plantings in the district is 3,544,830.50 hectares. Percentage of this is from plantations and percent from small holders.

According to Mr Namaliu, an appropriate form of downstream or secondary processing on small-scale basis should be identified and encouraged in oil mills, stock feed and other coconut product based.

"The maximum use of the whole coconut and other means of utilising the leaves, husks, shell, meat and trunk in processing products is to be initiated and researched its viabilities," he said.
In terms of alternative crops there are crops like vanilla, chilli, fruits and nuts that are widely grown and provide good returns to the growers.

Other cash crops like turmeric, nutmeg, coffee, cashew nuts are being investigated. They require less land, low level of expertise and suitable for remote areas.

The crops can be easily transported, have less preservation problems, marketable, have high returns and are diversifying crops.

Vanilla plantings in the district have increased rapidly to an average of 100 plants per farmer. The increase is due to the availability of marketing facilities.

From the 15.25ha, the production was 26.958kg green pods, recovery rate is 5.1 per cent total cured bean will be 5,391.6kg per year @K40kg 1998 price, K215,664.

Turmeric, of the ginger family requires less land and labor. This is being encouraged by DPI extension, with a total area of blocks of 28,258 and distribution of 14.26 per cent in the district.

Assorted fruits and nuts were planted as ornamental plants around houses or along land boundaries. Farmers have extended their planting as demand for selected fruits and nuts in local markets go up.

Kokopo is well known in mango production. There is high demand for apple mango, banana mango and other varieties.

Other fruits and nuts like durian, galip nuts, avocado, guava are in high demand. An organised market to buy and sell, or a fruit juice factory will greatly benefit the farmers and also generate income for them.

More than 500 farmers are planting various nuts and fruits totaling 7,499 in the district as per 1997 only. This can be done through marketing assistance, processing and extension backup.
Food production is being encouraged to provide income earnings and commercial potential for smallholders and availability of a wider variety of fresh foods at affordable prices.

The skills of the people in post harvest, packing methods, inappropriate pricing irregularity of supply are the main problems.
The extension service is being focused on increasing awareness campaigns of the opportunities, advising on pricing, marketing supply, demand for the existing commodities and others that are not grown at present.

There are a total of 37 vegetable farmers and 59 rice farmers in the district. The rice production in the district looks promising, as people have felt the pinch on the high price and decided to grow their own rice.

Backup support should be given to the program in terms of materials and equipment like rice mill, thrashing and plugging machines and tractors.

A DPI project officers checking cocoa seedlings in a nursery at Kokopo/Vunamami LLG.
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